By Abby Hoover
The Paseo Gateway Initiative has been in the works since January 2016 when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) executed a five-year Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant for $30 million, along with $109 million in local investment through 30 local partners.
The purpose of the grant is to replace the 134-unit Chouteau Courts public housing site, once located at Independence and Tracy avenues, and to support the revitalization of Pendleton Heights and portions of the Paseo West and Independence Plaza neighborhoods, known collectively as the Paseo Gateway.
Choice Neighborhood activities include housing, people and neighborhoods. The project has already funded the construction of five scattered mixed-income housing sites to replace Chouteau Courts: Quinlan Place and Quinlan Row, Pendleton Arts Block, Pendleton Flats and Rosehill Townhomes.
The United Way leads the “People” portion of the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative utilizing key operational partnerships with a variety of community-based organizations that serve immigrants, career seekers, medically uninsured and families. The team is focused on providing a range of human services that focus on education, economic opportunities and health outcomes. The core focus is to support and promote self-sufficiency for the 150 Target Households – former Chouteau Courts residents – as well as the residents of the Paseo Gateway with a key focus on positive outcomes in education, health and employment.
Greater Kansas City LISC is the Choice Neighborhood partner dedicated to ensuring the successful implementation of the neighborhood strategy. This means that residents of the Choice neighborhoods – Chouteau Courts, Paseo West, Independence Plaza and Pendleton Heights – are stakeholders in the Paseo Gateway project. The goal of the neighborhood strategy is to create the necessary conditions to attract public and private investment. Along with improvements to Independence Plaza Park and the 8th and Woodland area, the Neighborhood portion is funding storefront and homeowner facade improvements.
The Paseo Gateway area is home to 4,833 residents living in 1,828 households within approximately one square mile. This update will focus on projects breaking ground this month. For previous coverage of the Paseo Gateway Project, visit northeastnews.net.
Work on the Paseo Boulevard and Independence Avenue intersection will begin late this month, according to Kansas City Parks and Recreation Chief Engineer James Wang. The project is funded with $5 million in federal grants and $7 million in KC GO Bond funds.
The project, according to Wang, will reduce crashes at the intersection, provide a safer and improved experience for motorists, pedestrians and bicycle travel, and improve public transit access.
Project team members received bids and chose Amino Brothers, a local contractor specializing in heavy and highway construction, mass excavation, concrete flat work, concrete and asphalt paving, stormwater and sanitary sewer installation.
“We’re in the process of getting the construction contract fully executed,” Wang said. “Hopefully that will start construction towards the late part of [this] month. Late February, that’s what we’re shooting for.”
The project will be completed in different phases, but Wang said they will keep the northbound I-29/I-35 entrance ramp open for as long as they can.
“The interstate [ramp] will be closed for a period of time and then The Paseo would have to be closed for a period of time, but the intention is to do a little detour,” Wang said. “That highway ramp will stay open as long as possible.”
The acquisition of 1414 Independence Avenue, a title loan business adjacent to Belvedere Park on the northwest corner of Independence and Paseo, did not go through as planned.
“We were not able to come to agreement with the title loan, so as a result, we modified our design,” Wang said. “So now that title loan will stay in place. We’ll reconstruct their entrance so hopefully they can find another purpose for that property because once we have that intersection opened up, we’re going to make the access better to the interstate, stuff like that.”
Across the street, the project came to an agreement with KC Truck Sales, and the business will vacate the property sometime in March.
Wang was not involved with the removal of homeless camps from Belvidere Park, but said camping in public right of way and in parks is illegal.
Now, the project team is just waiting for contracts to go through – and milder weather.
“As soon as the contract is signed, we’re going to move forward with construction,” Wang said. “Nothing can stop us now. It took a while, you know, the pandemic hit, the whole process just was delayed so much because of the right-of-way acquisition. We submitted the condemnation case, then court was delayed, but finally it was cleared.”
Wang said they estimate construction will be done in the fall of 2023, and drivers should expect to experience short detours. There will be changeable message boards with advance warning signs ahead of road closures.
Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center is planning to add a beautiful park space on their property and a new community building directly adjacent to the final Choice Neighborhood housing phase, Sam Rodgers Place. CCI funds will help support the new commercial space and will be an incredible community amenity.
Todd Lieberman, Executive Vice President and Development Manager for Brinshore Development, provided an update to the Northeast News.
“Brinshore worked with the City, the Housing Authority, Samuel U. Rodgers and other partners to put together a plan to develop mixed income housing on some of the land that Sam Rodgers owns, which will be a great addition to their campus and will help to provide additional affordable and mixed income housing choices for residents in Kansas City,” Lieberman said.
Liberman said the project will break ground in the next few weeks, and they expect it to be completed by Summer 2023. The project will be executed in one phase.
“There will be three buildings,” Liberman said. “There’ll be 62 residential units, and a 4,000-square-foot Propellor Building, which will be a community resource center.”
A variety of funding sources have been compiled for the project, and BMO Harris is being used as the construction lender. Funding includes federal and state Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity. The federal equity is provided by the Richmond Group, and the state equity is provided by Sugar Creek Capital. There will be a loan from Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC), as well as National Housing Trust Fund money from MHDC, a home loan from the City of Kansas City, Mo., and Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant funds. The total cost for the project is estimated at $1,585,000.
The new development will add two surface parking lots to Samuel U. Rodgers’ campus, totaling 91 spots for both residents and users of the new spaces.
“It’s a mixture of replacement housing for residents who used to live in Chouteau Courts, they have a preference on the income-based portion of the project,” Lieberman said. “There’ll be market rate housing and there will also be affordable housing. The project is marketing to the broader Kansas City community, but we would be happy to welcome clients of Sam Rogers.”
Roughly 70% of the units will be set aside for affordable housing, and then 30% will be market rate.
“Sam Rogers will be providing services in the development and they will have a full-time services coordinator working on-site, and then the propeller building will also be owned and run by Sam Rogers,” Lieberman said. “That building will have events space, business startup space, as well as a kitchen and some conference rooms.”
The new development is bordered to the north by Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, to the East and South by Brooklyn Avenue on the east, Ninth Street to the south, and to the west by the KCPS Woodland campus, which is home to the new KCPS International Welcome Center.
“This development will fit into the surrounding neighborhood and provide opportunities for people at the KCPS facility, as well,” Lieberman said. “Residents will have close access to a grocery store, an Aldi, and the Early Childhood Center on Woodland.”
The development is near Brinshore’s other Paseo Gateway housing projects, Pendleton Arts Block, Quinlan Row, and Pendleton Flats. This is the last phase of replacement housing for Chouteau Courts in the Northeast. Chouteau Courts, which was completed in 1958 and had become unlivable, was demolished in 2019.
“We’re excited to have a critical mass of activity within a short walk of each other,” Lieberman said. “I think the design is a really exciting and vibrant addition to the campus and will add to the really unique architecture of the Sam Rodgers building.”
Public Works Project Manager Mario Vasquez said Eight and Woodland streetscape improvements are coming soon. Last year, the department focused on collecting public input both in person and online. The project team also participated in a parents and teachers meeting at the nearby Kansas City Public Schools Woodland Campus in November.
“We are moving to finalize our design by the end of January/mid-February with the goal to advertise for bid immediately,” Vasquez said. “I would like to get construction started in May with a completion date by the end of the year.”
There is no major right-of-way acquisition required for this $1.14 million Critical Community Improvement (CCI) project, which is funded in part with funds allocated through Public Improvement Advisory Committee (PIAC) funds and the Choice Neighborhood Initiative Grant.
“As far as detours, we anticipate that there will be lane closures on Eighth Street and Woodland as work progresses,” Vasquez said. “We are aware that the Paseo Gateway Project will also include detours through our project area, specifically along Woodland, north of Admiral. My goal is to be done with work north on Woodland, north of Admiral by the time the Paseo Gateway project begins to route traffic through that area.”
The Independence Plaza Park project broke ground in November 2021. Since then, demolition has begun on the 1.73-acre park, which is divided by Independence Boulevard between Brooklyn and Park avenues.
Two replacement housing sites border the north side of the park, as well as Scuola Vita Nuova Charter School. Though central to the housing plan, the park is currently underutilized and is a crime hotspot in the neighborhood due to the proximity of a neighboring liquor store.
The $1.2 million capital improvement project will bring upgrades to the park on both sides of Independence Boulevard. The improvements, funded primarily by the $30 million Paseo Gateway Project and the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, will include a futsal court, a walking trail, fencing and lighting enhancement, and a universally accessible playground for children, regardless of their degree of mobility.
Construction Manager Scott Overby said he’s waiting on change orders to be approved for amounts of mulch and other small details to begin. He said crews are waiting for warmer temperatures so they can begin grading the site. Moving forward, much of their work will be weather sensitive and he said the project will not be complete by the original March date.